Center Stage by Bernadette Marie, now you can read online.
Arianna pushed down on the suitcase and forced the zipper to close. The rest of her apartment was packed and ready for movers, but she’d need all her clothes before her belongings arrived in Tennessee.
She looked around her small, New York apartment. It had been a good home to her for the past decade. She’d accomplished everything she’d wanted. When she’d moved there, it was to try her hand on the stages of Manhattan. She’d played in some dives and had worked her way up to leads on Broadway. She had a few commercials to her credit and had graced a few TV shows as an extra, but her love was still on stage. But now it was time to go home, back where her family was. Something would come together for her there. It always did.
Arianna looked at her watch. She had barely enough time to get to the airport. If there were any accidents backing up traffic, she’d miss her flight.
Her brother-in-law, Zach, had called and said her sister Regan had gone into labor with the couple’s second baby. She figured she’d arrive just in time to get to hold the bundle of joy. Then in a few more weeks, her brother, Curtis, and his fiancée, Simone, would have their first child. She knew moving back to Tennessee was right, and getting to spoil new nieces and nephews was reason enough to be closer to home.
The flight had been miserable. Leaving New York in a January snowstorm always meant delays and aggravation. It was almost eight o’clock at night by the time the flight landed two hours late. Carlos would be livid if he’d been waiting at the airport the entire time.
She made it to baggage claim, retrieved her two pieces of luggage, and then scanned the area for her brother. There was no sign of him, or any member of her family, anywhere.
“I thought I’d missed you,” the familiar voice behind her said.
She spun quickly to find John Forrester, Zach’s most trusted building foreman, standing there.
“Missed me? Were you looking for me?”
“I have been sent to pick you up. Carlos and Madeline ended up with Tyler for the night.”
Arianna narrowed her stare on him when he’d commented about her nephew. “I thought Mom was watching him while the baby was born.”
“Well, it seems as though your family is going to grow quite a bit tonight. Regan is still in labor, and Curtis just took Simone in. She’s having her baby today, too.”
Arianna gasped. “Simone isn’t due for two more weeks.”
“Babies come when babies want to, and Emily thought she’d better be there for Simone.” He picked up her suitcases, one in each hand. “C’mon, my truck isn’t too far.”
Who would have thought she’d get to be there for the birth of both babies in one night. God had blessed the Keller family—that was for sure. Carlos and Madeline’s kids were teenagers, and in the next few years, they would be off on adventures of their own. Eduardo, their eldest, was already working for Zach after school. Christian, their second son, was an all-star athlete—baseball, she thought. And Clara, well, Clara was a girl after her own heart. She was an accomplished musician on the acoustic guitar. And, boy, could that girl sing.
Regan and Zach’s son, Tyler, was as anxious as any sixteen-month-old child could be for a new sibling. But Arianna figured he’d need the most spoiling from her to make everything just right.
As for her, she’d never wanted children. It just hadn’t been in her plans. Her career had always been more important. She came and went as she wanted, carried on in any fashion she saw fit, and, of course, traveled the world.
But now Nashville, Tennessee called her back home. Perhaps she could share her talent with the world in some other way.
John led her to his truck in the adjoining parking lot. She was comfortable with John, she thought, as she walked behind him. They had been each other’s dates to both of Carlos’s weddings last year, and they had hit it off, as friends of course. They might have hit it off more, but he was very conscious of their age difference, even though she wasn’t worried about the thirteen years between them. His ex-wife had burned him badly ten years ago, and it was clear he didn’t trust any woman.
Not that she’d been looking for a man, but she often thought if John hadn’t been so worried about everything, they might have had something. As it was, they could keep each other’s company comfortably. Coming home with all her brothers and her sister being married, that might just be what she needed—someone to keep her company.
John’s truck was probably one of the most beat up pickup trucks she’d ever had the displeasure of riding in, and she’d been born and raised in Tennessee—she knew bad pickup trucks. But that was John’s character. If it still worked, there was no need to replace it.
He backed out of the parking lot and headed toward the highway. Also common with John, he didn’t have much to say unless you started the conversation.
“So, how is the construction business?” she asked.
“Zach keeps me busy. That’s for sure.”
“I’ll bet. Do you think he’ll take some time off after the baby is born?”
John laughed. “Sure he will. He will work from his office at home.”
Arianna followed suit and laughed too. That sounded like her brother-in-law.
She watched as John merged lanes. His tanned skin showed the many years that he’d worked in the elements. The deep lines around his eyes never made him look old, she thought, only distinguished. Arianna liked her men distinguished. Age on a man had never bothered her. Oh, if her parents knew about some of the men she’d dated in New York, they certainly might have had an opinion on the matter.
She must be feeling the pang of needing someone to connect with, she decided, because the thought of running her fingers through John’s salt and pepper shaded hair was almost irresistible. But she denied herself the pleasure. He probably wouldn’t take too kindly to the lunatic sister-in-law of his boss making a move on him.